The Grand Astoria
La Belle Epoque


3.5
great

Review

by Mad. USER (28 Reviews)
September 10th, 2014 | 12 replies


Release Date: 09/04/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Russia's finest stoner-rockers don't have a brake pedal.

I always approach an extremely prolific band with a certain scepticism - how can they keep up a high quality if they release an album every year" How can they produce a masterpiece if all their best ideas are spread out over several albums" Where the hell do I start"
This approach has proved to be inaccurate in many cases, for example Norwegian psychedelic gods Motorpsycho this year managed to release a masterpiece eleven months after their last album, which was almost as good and came only a year after their previous masterpiece...
Leading on to topical band The Grand Astoria, their yearly LPs (excluding 2012) have shown a steady and exhilarating increase in quality from promising beginnings hindered by jarring punk-esque vocals to last year's epic 75-minute Punkadelia Supreme in which they stated their intention to be one of the most distinctive stoner-rock acts around. Their sound flitted from insane wah-wah riffing to Eastern-influenced acoustic plucking, few songs under five minutes in length and every riff oozing with energy.

The band had two places to go from here: deliver a tighter, blistering magnum opus or lose their momentum and dip in quality. Evidenced by the rating, La Belle Epoque is the latter, but don't be put off. In the time between these two albums, the band have progressed, dispensing such versatile goods as an acoustic EP, 30-minute song and even a tribute album to Black Flag. With these expansions of their sound, this album shows new, refreshing flairs like opener 'Henry's Got A Gun' which is a 3-minute blues-punk rocker and contrast to their usual style of 8-minute, morphing epics. Similarly, 'The Answer' presents a change of their usual pace, slow-burning and featuring a flute as well as Kamille Sharapodinov's recognisable dobro guitar use before the distortion enters. However, the song never feels the need for a fast passage or freak-out solo... that comes later.

After this demonstration that the band are not afraid to try new things, those waiting for the fuzz are treated to two epics in a row, 'Gravity Bong' and the 14-minute 'Serpent and the Garden of Eden,' which do not disappoint. It's all there, head-banging riffs via sensual interplay between guitarists Sharapodinov and Igor Suvorov, Vladimir Zinoviev's proficient drumming and double-bass-pedal use, cunningly-placed shredding solos, and even a few surprises on the way.
The latter track takes a number of unexpected detours, the development of hooks showing the band's dexterity and giving the song a convincingly progressive nature. Most enjoyable is a loungey blues break around the eight-minute mark, and after a return to stoner-rock riffing the song's time signature slows until the album's stand-out moment, where an orchestra and church-like bells come in for the song's spine-tingling, movie soundtrack-eqsue climax.

What's frustrating about this is that moments like these are much fewer and far between than Punkadelia and even Omnipresence, not due to bad songs but simply a lack of the same creative drive those albums had. The shortened length of this album at almost half as long as their previous is a telling sign of this; the guitar hooks, lyrics and song arrangements simply aren't as good. The title track is noticeable in its promising start, being some of the band's most relaxed and upbeat work, high-pitched bells and Sharapodinov's falsetto building to a brief musical interlude, then suddenly ending. This leaves the impression of lazy song-writing, like the album should have been given more time to develop rather than being rushed out maintain a one-album-a-year tradition.
While Sharapodinov's vocals have improved vastly from the thorniness of their first LPs to a point where they actually fit with the music, there are several instances of cringe-inducing lyrics excused only for the fact that English is not their first language, see phrases such as "In the dark / we carry on," "Love / is the answer" and most amusingly, Gravity Bong's "Moon is high / and so am I..."

Nevertheless, none of these issues stand out enough for the album to be unlistenable, and can somewhat be seen as a 'characterful' aspect of the band, akin to Sharapodinov's Russian accent at one point exclaiming "move your ess!" when he is clearly referring to your 'ass'. Besides, this album, along with the other new elements of The Grand Astoria's sound leading up to it, provide more impelling hope for the future that a magnum opus is upon us. Of course, this all depends on whether the band plays its cards right, fully-furnishing all of their ideas to their potental yet keeping up that prolific nature.



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user ratings (14)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Mad.
September 10th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Full album stream: http://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/album/la-belle-epoque



Don't get put off by the 3.5, this is awesome from start to finish.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2014


6676 Comments


[/i]Omnipresence[/i]


"Evidenced by the rating" - I think evident would be the better word choice... reads better I think

Probably not my thing, but nice review. pos

Mad.
September 10th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Ah thanks for picking up on those, I'll give it an edit



Judging by your taste it probably isn't tbh but if you're bored why not click play

Mad.
September 11th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Thanks brah you should defo dig it

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2014


4656 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good stuff, pos. I'd like to see them live one day.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
September 11th 2014


11337 Comments


Great review man, pos. Might give this one a listen in the future.

Mad.
September 11th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Thanks guys. Seeing them live would indeed be awesome. Their live videos look great, but they haven't been to the UK yet...

Mad.
September 14th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Glad you enjoyed it man, shame so few people saw my review :,(



Lisbon Fuzzborn is cool but I think I prefer The Answer and The Serpent, lotsa great tracks though



Be sure to check out Punkadelia

Mad.
September 14th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Lol I'll take that as an achievements. One of my favourite things about TGA is their prog and psych elements, possibly utilised best on Punkadelia.

The frontman has some pretty cool influences. He even has a space-rock project called "Organic Is Orgasmic"

Mad.
September 14th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Ah yeah I've heard of them, I definitely will. Another band TGA recommend are Mother's Cake, they're not Russian but still awesome, it's a fusion of prog, psych and funk. Amazing

SharkTooth
September 29th 2014


13855 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album's pretty nice!

Mad.
September 29th 2014


4735 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Yeah man, be sure to check Punkadelia Supreme, it's their best quite easily. Omnipresence and The Body Limits shouldn't be missed either



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